Israel Mourns Deaths of Aliza Begin and 75 Israelis Killed in Tyre Blast

Aliza Begin, wife of Premier Menachem Begin, was buried on the Mount of Olives today. The private service, attended by family members and close friends, coincided with a national day of remembrance for the 75 Israeli military and civilian personnel killed in an explosion which destroyed Israeli military headquarters in Tyre, south Lebanon last Thursday.

Mrs. Begin died early Sunday morning of heart failure at the age of 62. She had been hospitalized for a respiratory ailment. News of her death reached Begin in Los Angeles where he was about to deliver a major address at the 50th anniversary General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations. He flew home immediately for the funeral and is in mourning.

Aides said that during the 20-hour flight he remained secluded in his compartment on the Israel Air Force jet, and silent. He was greeted at his Jerusalem home by President Yitzhak Navon who expressed condolences and left.

Although the rites were not public, the congregation attending Mrs. Begin’s funeral was large. It included Cabinet ministers, Knesset members, the Chief of Staff and several senior army officers as well as many of Begin’s former underground comrades in arms. As the cortege wound through the streets from the Sanhedria quarter to the Mount of Olives, it was joined by many ordinary Jerusalemites.

Meanwhile, messages of condolences to the Begin family poured in from around the world. Many were from heads of states, diplomats and American Jewish leaders.

CONDOLENCES AND PRAYERS FOR THE VICTIMS

Navon also offered condolences today in the name of the people and the State of Israel to the families of the Tyre blast victims. He observed that they include Druze, Circasians and Bedouins as well as Jews. Navon spoke at a ceremony of the Falasha community on Mount Zion as they were celebrating the ancient festival of Sigd, marking the desire of Ethiopian Jews to return to Zion. Later he joined other officials to visit the homes of some of the victims.

Prayers for the blast victims were recited this morning at the Western Wall and psalms were read. At 10 a.m. local time, sirens sounded all over the country and at all military bases and outposts to signal a minute of silence in memory of the dead. All places of entertainment were closed and newspapers were filled with black-border accounts of the deaths and with death notices.

A special memorial session was held by the Knesset, attended by Navon. It was opened by the Speaker, Menachem Savidor, who said that Israel had gone into Lebanon “to root out evil” but apparently had been “affected by the curse and the sins of that land and its internecine violence.”

Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, speaking for the government, used the occasion to reply to the wave of doubts and questioning of Israel’s presence and purpose in Lebanon that have spread in the wake of the Tyre disaster. The nation of Israel has been through far worse vicissitudes he said “but people did not keep asking ‘how long more?’ and ‘what will be? ‘”If there was questioning in the past, “people then knew the answers,” he said. “They knew that Israel had to stand firm and not concede its just cause.”

Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres, speaking for the opposition, said he would not enter into polemics during this mourning session. “The bonds of death and bereavement bind the nation strongly together,” he said. “We are united around our freedom and this is no mere literary conceit.”

Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan issued an order of the day pointing out that the soldiers, border police and security officials who died in Tyre had been on a mission to ensure the security of Israel and normal life in Lebanon.

The death toll stands at 89 — 75 Israelis and 14 Arabs. There were 56 injured in the blast. Sixteen Israelis and two Lebanese were still under treatment today at a Haifa hospital. The cause of the explosion which leveled the seven-story building housing Israeli military and civil administration headquarters in south Lebanon remained a mystery. Although experts who examined the blast site are inclined to believe it was accidental, sabotage has not been ruled out.

NEXT STORY